Crime, Law and order, Murder

Indiana woman on death row at age 16 for murdering Bible school teacher will go free!


Paula Cooper, 43, (Pictured above) was convicted in the 1985 murder of Ruth Pelke, who was found stabbed 33 times across her chest as part of a home invasion. Cooper will be released today after her death penalty punishment nearly 30 years ago raised international attention.

Cooper, of Gary Ind., was 15 when she and three other teenage girls showed up at Ruth Pelke’s house on May 14, 1985, with plans of robbing the 78-year-old Bible school teacher. Pelke (in the photo below), let Cooper and two of the teen’s companions into her Gary home after they told her they were interested in Bible lessons.

Bill Pelke, Ruth Pelke's grandson, holds a picture of her.

The girls were on their lunch break from high school.

As the fourth teen waited outside as a lookout, Cooper stabbed Pelke 33 times with a 12-inch butcher knife across her chest. Then she and the other girls ransacked the house.

Authorities said Pelke was praying the Lord’s Prayer while she was being brutally murdered. The four girls fled with the woman’s car and $10.

Cooper’s three accomplices were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 25 to 60 years. But Cooper, who confessed to Pelke’s slaying, was convicted of murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair. At the time — in 1986 — she was the youngest death row inmate in the U.S.

Some people believed Cooper deserved to die, but the punishment enraged human rights activists and death penalty opponents around the world, including those who viewed the teen as a victim of a racist criminal justice system.

Pope John Paul II urged that Cooper be granted clemency in 1987, and in 1988 a priest brought a petition to Indianapolis with more than 2 million signatures protesting Cooper’s sentence.

The Indiana Supreme Court set Cooper’s death sentence aside in 1988 and ordered her to serve 60 years in prison instead.

Cooper told The Star newspaper in a jailhouse interview in 2004 that she was on the straight and narrow.

“Everybody has a responsibility to do right or wrong, and if you do wrong, you should be punished,” she said. “Rehabilitation comes from you. If you’re not ready to be rehabilitated, you won’t be.”

89 thoughts on “Indiana woman on death row at age 16 for murdering Bible school teacher will go free!”

      1. @Yasha, did Paula Pelke get a second chance? No!
        No but Paula Cooper has to live with that fact not me.


      2. @Yasha, did Paula Pelke get a second chance? No!
        The fact that she was praying while they were killing her was hard to read. Damn shame.


  1. She was young to have killed someone. so sad. i hope she makes use of her 2nd chance and become an upstanding law-abiding citizen


      1. Zup y’all
        I think I’ll enjoy this day off with some good ole IHOP and a nice blunt #don’tjudgeme


      2. What the hell wrong with yall @ New Girl and Man…Is that all you see is each other? Smh


      3. I offended no one but said GOOD MORNING to EVERYONE.

        You sure did and ain’t nobody mad at cha for it either 😆

        Good morning back at cha @Miss Ang and anybody else rolling up in here after me.


  2. Hm….so many questions: is she getting released directly to the outside, or will she start in a half-way house, where she can be monitored more than on a weekly visit to a parole officer?


  3. She should have died already. I am so tired of society allowing AGE to let these teens do whatever the hell they want. 33 times she stabbed this woman and in the court pic she is smiling like she did something big, fuckin gangster!!


  4. I oppose the death penalty in all cases, but I do not believe that murderers should go free unless it was a self defense case which this was not.


  5. You have to be seriously evil to stab an elderly person that many times. The first couple of jabs probably killed her, and the rest were just for fun. She is evil.


  6. Why do folks sincerely think child killers won’t grow up to be adult killers? I mean really. She killed once and she’ll likely kill again.


      1. She did her time.

        Yeah but she better WATCH her back!
        Word cause Karma is a bitch!


  7. Her story is so rare…but her conscious should have dealt with her by now if she’s truly on the str8 and narrow.


  8. She chopped a little old women into tiny pieces with a 12″ butcher knife for $10..she should have been put down like a rabid dog 20 years ago!


  9. she will be released and probably killed in a violent death. Then her family can wonder why and think back to this little old lady that was just teaching bible studies when these Hoodrats took her life.


  10. This is ridiculous. Why should she be walking the streets? She should be locked up. One violation and she should go back.


  11. I don’t care how young she was when she did the crime. I hope she dies a horrible death for killing this old woman.


  12. I’m confused.
    Why was she set free? Makes no sense. Was it because of good behavior? Why was her 60 year sentence shortened?


    1. She’s free!
      But in life you reap what you sow…so she better be careful.
      Which is why she really ain’t free. When you free the way she’s obtained freedom you will have to constantly watch yo back.


  13. Aw man so she and her friends did the crime at 16? wonder how her friends feel now that she’s been released. I would be pissed.


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